Ballon d'Or: Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi lead list of 30 nominees
Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo are set to resume their annual battle for the Ballon d'Or after both were named in the list of 30 nominees for the 2016 award on Monday.
France Football, the magazine that founded most prestigious individual honour in football, released the list in which Real Madrid man Ronaldo, 31, and Barcelona's Messi, 29, both featured. The pair have finished first and second in each of the past five years with Messi edging out his great rival three wins to two, including his triumph last year.
Five-time Ballon d'Or winner Messi again shone as Barca won the 2015-16 La Liga title, but the Argentina international could be upstaged this year by Ronaldo, who is favoured to claim the prize for a fourth time.
Though the Madrid man has struggled by his own stratospheric standards in the early stages of the current campaign, it is unlikely to overshadow the fact he contributed significantly as he picked up both the UEFA Champions League with Real Madrid and Euro 2016 with Portugal in a stunning year.
Ronaldo is joined in the list by Madrid teammates Gareth Bale, Toni Kroos, Luka Modric, Sergio Ramos and Pepe, meaning the European champions have the most nominees of any club with six -- despite the absence of Karim Benzema -- while the inclusion of Messi's Blaugrana colleagues Andres Iniesta, Luis Suarez and Neymar means the Catalan side have two fewer than their great rivals.
Germany's double winners Bayern Munich also have four nominations in Robert Lewandowski, Manuel Neuer, Thomas Muller and Arturo Vidal, who helped Chile retain the Copa America last summer, though his international teammate Alexis Sanchez of Arsenal was overlooked.
Beaten by their Madrid neighbours in last May's UEFA Champions League final, Atletico have three nominees after Antoine Griezmann, who finished up as Euro 2016 top scorer with France, was joined by Koke and defender Diego Godin.
Voici les nommés (11-15/30) du Ballon d'Or France Football : Ibrahimovic, Iniesta, Koke, Kroos et Lewandowski. pic.twitter.com/Ok9NyMXSu7- L'ÉQUIPE (@lequipe) October 24, 2016
Juventus also boast a trio of potential winners with Paulo Dybala and Gianluigi Buffon alongside Gonzalo Higuain, who netted 36 Serie A goals for Napoli last term before securing a big-money move to Turin.
Manchester United's Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Paul Pogba are both included. However, the Swede, 35, owes his nomination to his Treble-winning exploits at Paris Saint-Germain last season, during which he netted a Ligue 1-high 38 goals, while it is Pogba's title-winning exploits with Juventus and his part in France's Euro 2016 runners-up finish that earned the midfielder, 23, his place.
Manchester City have a pair of nominees in Sergio Aguero and Kevin De Bruyne, while Riyad Mahrez is rewarded for his starring role in Leicester City's surprise Premier League title win with a nomination. The man whose goals fuelled the Foxes' success, Jamie Vardy, is also included, but there was no spot for N'Golo Kante, the midfield spark plug who has since moved to Chelsea.
Tottenham Hotspur and France goalkeeper Hugo Lloris got the nod thanks to his efforts in his club's third-placed Premier League finish last term -- Mauricio Pochettino's men had the joint-best defensive record -- and as a runner-up at the Euros.
Dimitri Payet's part in Les Bleus' success on home soil sees the West Ham United man in, Borussia Dortmund sharpshooter Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is another in the running as is Sporting and Portugal goalkeeper Rui Patricio.
After six years during which the Ballon d'Or was awarded in conjunction with FIFA, replacing the governing body's World Player of the Year prize, the l will revert to its original roots this year. No longer will a combined group of national team coaches, captains and international media take part in the decision, with only journalists now getting a vote.
The list of nominees, increased this year from 23 to 30, will not be reduced to a final shortlist of three, and the winner and the final placings will be revealed by France Football on Dec. 13.
The 30 nominees:
Sergio Aguero (Manchester City), Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Borussia Dortmund), Gareth Bale (Real Madrid), Gianluigi Buffon (Juventus), Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid), Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City), Paulo Dybala (Juventus), Diego Godin (Atletico Madrid), Antoine Griezmann (Atletico Madrid), Gonzalo Higuain (Napoli/Juventus), Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Paris Saint-Germain/Manchester United), Andres Iniesta (Barcelona), Koke (Atletico Madrid), Toni Kroos (Real Madrid), Robert Lewandowski (Bayern Munich), Hugo Lloris (Tottenham), Riyad Mahrez (Leicester City), Lionel Messi (Barcelona), Luka Modric (Real Madrid), Thomas Muller (Bayern Munich), Manuel Neuer (Bayern Munich), Neymar (Barcelona), Dimitri Payet (West Ham), Pepe (Real Madrid), Paul Pogba (Juventus/Manchester United), Rui Patricio (Sporting), Sergio Ramos (Real Madrid), Luis Suarez (Barcelona), Jamie Vardy (Leicester City), Arturo Vidal (Bayern Munich)
Ian is ESPN's French football correspondent. Twitter: @ian_holyman